French Open

The French Tennis Federation (FFT) has confirmed that this year’s French Open will now take place over three weeks, from September 21 to October 11, adding that it is hoping to have fans in attendance.

The FFT last month said it was in talks with the sport’s governing bodies amid reports the 2020 French Open at Roland Garros would see its dates moved again. Back in March, the FFT said the modernisation of the Roland Garros site – which includes the installation of a roof on the main Court Philippe Chatrier – had enabled the grand slam event to be rescheduled to the autumn.

The competition is held in Paris each May, but the FFT initially announced new dates due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The 2020 competition was then scheduled to be held from September 20 to October 4, but these dates were widely criticised as they clash with the hardcourt season.

The FFT has now said the French Open will take place from September 21 to October 11, providing the conditions relating to the COVID-19 health crisis allow it to go ahead. The extra week of competition means the qualifying tournament can be played.

The FFT is now working with the French government to prepare for the tournament and set out suitable measures that will ensure the health and safety of all people present. The FFT said all options will be considered and are subject to change.

Bernard Giudicelli, president of the FFT, said in a statement: “In the current, difficult climate, we are well aware that it is a privilege to be able to hold Roland-Garros in its usual format. Especially since the qualifying tournament will help to financially support a category of professional players who have been severely affected by this unprecedented crisis.

“The responsible decision we made on March 17 to postpone the Roland-Garros tournament – the climax of the clay season – until the autumn means that the 2020 clay season can be saved, providing the current situation continues to improve.”

Giudicelli added that the FFT is not contemplating the scenario of playing behind closed doors. All tickets sold for the original dates have now been reimbursed, but Giudicelli added that a new sales process will be launched at the end of the month.

When questioned on how many fans will be permitted entry, he said, according to the AFP news agency: “It will be a number, a percentage which will be defined by mutual agreement with the public authorities.”

Giudicelli added: “This kind of option requires real cooperation with the public authorities. It is still premature to be able to give even an estimate today. We’ll have several working scenarios by the end of the month and it is only around this time that we will be able to say how we are going to organise and market the tickets. We have not yet made a final decision.”

US Open

The United States Tennis Association (USTA) has outlined a comprehensive health and safety plan as it confirmed that the 2020 US Open will go ahead behind closed doors as part of a double bill of tournaments.

The 2020 US Open is set to be played at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York, on its originally scheduled dates of August 31 to September 13. It will be immediately preceded by the relocated Western & Southern Open, which will take place at the same site having been moved from Cincinnati.

As part of the decision, the USTA unveiled a health and safety plan that has been approved by New York State government officials. The plan was created by the USTA’s US Open team, with input from the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), and in conjunction with the USTA Medical Advisory Group, other medical experts and noted security officials.

Electronic line-calling will be used instead of line judges for US Open matches at all courts except the two largest arenas, while there will be three ball people instead of six at courts other than Arthur Ashe Stadium and Louis Armstrong Stadium.

There will be testing for COVID-19 via nasal swabs upon arrival on site and then once weekly thereafter. “The decision to hold the 2020 US Open without fans was not an easy one, but ultimately it was the correct one,” said Stacey Allaster, chief executive of professional tennis at the USTA and newly-named US Open tournament director.

“To mitigate risk, we must minimise numbers on-site. Though we will not have fans on our site, we will engage with tennis fans around the world in new and exciting ways with the help of our global broadcast partners, and all our US Open sponsors.”

The USTA on Tuesday said it would reveal further plans for the Open after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo gave the green light for it to be held behind closed doors. However, there remains doubts as to how many players will commit to the US Open with a number of leading stars expressing their misgivings over competing somewhere that has been a hot spot for COVID-19.

Indeed, an indoor tennis facility at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center temporarily housed hundreds of hospital beds at the height of New York’s struggles with the global pandemic. However, US tennis superstar, and 23-time major champion Serena Williams, has already confirmed her participation.

The USTA has now said it will embark on additional efforts to deliver all the on- and off-court action to fans at home, with “groundbreaking digital access and intimacy”.

ATP/WTA

The ATP and WTA have issued revised provisional calendars that set a pathway for the resumption of the tours for the first time since the suspension of professional tennis in March due to the pandemic.

The new-look ATP Tour calendar intends to resume on August 14 with the Citi Open, the ATP 500 event in Washington, D.C., followed by the Western & Southern Open, the Cincinnati ATP Masters 1000 event, to be hosted at Flushing Meadows, in the lead up to the US Open.

Following New York, the Mutua Madrid Open and the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, ATP Masters 1000 events on clay in Madrid and Rome, respectively, will take place in September ahead of Roland-Garros in Paris.

All events will be held under strict guidelines related to health and safety, social distancing, reduced or no fans on-site. A further update on the intended schedule beyond Roland-Garros, including a possible Asia swing ahead of the European indoor swing culminating with the season-ending ATP Finals in London, is expected in mid-July.

WTA Tour competition is provisionally scheduled to begin the week of August 3 at the 31° Palermo Ladies Open in Italy. The women’s calendar includes a total of 20 tournaments. Following the US Open, the WTA Tour will continue to Europe with several red clay events, including the Mutua Madrid Open leading into Roland Garros.

Thereafter, the WTA Tour will travel across several countries in Europe and Asia-Pacific, including the China Open in Beijing, with another few weeks of tournament competition leading into the season-ending WTA Finals in Shenzhen, which is set for November 9-15.

It is currently anticipated that tournaments will be held without fans and each tournament will have a limited footprint, with players and essential personnel only.

#Sport4Recovery

A global campaign entitled #Sport4Recovery, which has been backed by a number of governing bodies and stakeholders, has launched today (Thursday) to encourage policymakers to safely reopen organised sport.

The campaign will work with the scientific community to highlight the importance of sport for mental and physical health recovery, as well as mobilising athletes and fans.

#Sport4Recovery has been backed by a number of major sporting bodies, including the International Ski Federation (FIS), the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), the Infront agency and Lega Serie A, which organises top tier of club football in Italy.

The campaign is urging governments to work with sports governing bodies and other stakeholders to develop and approve detailed protocols to enable the reopening of venues, training and competition.

#Sport4Recovery also calls on governments to protect the sports sector from further economic and structural damage by supporting a “sustainable pathway” to reopen venues safely, and ease national and international travel and accommodation regulations for leading athletes.

Additionally, the campaign is urging governments to consider the needs for each individual sport, support women’s sports at grassroots and elite level, and, in line with safety principles, allow spectators to attend live sporting events, allow amateur clubs and facilities to open, and begin to ease travel and accommodation regulations for spectators and fans.

Other founding underwriters of the #Sport4Recovery manifesto are the Alliance of European Hockey Clubs (EHC), Basketball Champions League, Basketball Champions League Americas, European Volleyball Federation (CEV), French Swimming Federation, International Motorcycling Federation (FIM), Italian Athletics Federation (FIDAL), Italian Golf Federation (FIG), Italian Ice Sports Association (FISG), Le Five, MXGP, and Sporsora.

Sarah Lewis, secretary general of the FIS, said: “We believe that sport can serve as a role model for other sectors of society in demonstrating and promoting the organisation of safe and controlled activities and we welcome sports organisations and stakeholders involved in sport around the world to join our movement. After all, organised sport is already staged according to controlled procedures and comprehensive health and safety protocols to ensure the wellbeing of all involved.”

Cricket South Africa

The Cricket South Africa national governing body has outlined plans for an innovative Solidarity Cup tournament, which will take place on June 27 at SuperSport Park in Centurion.

The Solidarity Cup will showcase the new 3TCricket format, which will see 24 of South Africa’s top cricketers compete in three teams playing two halves in one match. The three teams are the Eagles, captained by AB de Villiers; the Kingfishers, captained by Kagiso Rabada; and the Kites, captained by Quinton de Kock.

The event, which will be broadcast nationally by SuperSport 2, will mark the first live sport in South Africa since the country went into lockdown in March.

The 3TCricket format will see the three teams compete in a single 36-over match, which will be played behind closed doors in line with social distancing restrictions that are still in place across South Africa.

Image: Jean-Charles Caslot / FFT